Saturday, May 12, 2007

Just when we thought Anna Nicole Smith would dominate the news, she, her baby and her boyfriends began to fade from view. Jesus, who has more staying power, was waiting in the wings, so to speak, the subject of yet another discovery: A cluster of ossuaries (bone repositories) in Jerusalem that seemed to have his name and those of his wife and son. The media made much of this, along with skepticism by several biblical archaeologists.

“The Da Vinci Code” of 2003 began this process of questioning New Testament doctrine by means of a colorful narrative. It was followed by the discovery of the presumed ossuary of Jesus’ half brother, James, and books variously asserting that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, sired a son or asked Judas to betray him.

Now comes Lon Milo DuQuette’s “Accidental Christ,” a novel with yet another approach. This story is told by Jesus’ elderly Uncle Clopas, and a gripping tale it is. The thesis is that a group developed The Plan to replace King Herod’s heir, Antipas, with a descendant of the legendary King David. They have been looking for the perfect candidate. Because Jesus’ father is a Davidian and his mother, Mary, is from the house of Saul, he’s that candidate. The Plan’s emissary, who calls on Jesus in Alexandria, says, “You, my young friend, are the David of your generation. Do you not see? For all intents and purposes your blood makes you King of the Jews.”

Events described in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are explained through the prism of The Plan. Jesus spends his otherwise unknown childhood at an exclusive prep school in Alexandria. He then enters an Essene monastery at Mount Carmel, the focus of which is medicine (it is at odds with the ascetic Essenes of Qumran, by the Dead Sea). There he learns to distinguish real ailments from hypochondria — a skill that will prove useful in his days ahead as a worker of seeming miracles.

He learns another important thing at Mount Carmel about life and death, but you will have to read the book, lest I give away the whole story.

The Plan’s leaders, under Joseph of Ramtha (Arimathea) tell him it is time to activate his “ministry.” First, he has himself baptized by his mad cousin John, then supplants John as the leader of the flock of the baptized. Twelve Carmelites are sent to serve as a combined advance and security team for Jesus (they become Disciples). They stay at Mary’s estate in Cana (Joseph, now deceased, dubbed The Great Carpenter, was actually a wealthy lumber man).

Attending the famous wedding at Cana, Jesus uses some canny legerdemain to appear to turn water into wine. Other miracles, such as walking on water and the fishes and loaves, are given plausible explanations.

Because the Herodians do not tolerate political dissent, Jesus speaks in code. When, in his speeches, he mentions “The Father,” he means not God but King David. “Prince” is code for his own candidacy.

After John the Baptist’s cult-like followers attach themselves to Jesus and their number grows, the Pharisees who preside over the Temple in Jerusalem, along with the political operatives of King Antipas, are after him. The Plan goes awry, but how and with what consequences you will have to learn in the book.

Mr. DuQuette is the author or co-author of 12 other books, several of them dealing with the occult.

Before his death, Dr. Joseph Philbrick, an American biblical scholar, completed a book (“the Gospels Consolidated and Integrated in an Original Translation”) intended to “harmonize,” side-by-side, key elements of the four Gospels. This clarifies some seeming contradictions within the context of Christian faith. Mr. DuQuette, on the other hand, gives us an entirely different view of the basis of the belief system that has been predominant for two millenia. The reader will have to be the judge.

Peter Hannaford is co-author of “Remembering Reagan.”

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